Few things can improve your effectiveness as a performer and as a leader than reaching goals. The key, though, often isn’t just persisting toward your goals, but setting the right ones before your pursuit. It’s wiser to spend more time strategizing so you can spend less time recalculating once you start.
A good first step is working with the end in mind. How do you visualize the end result? How does it feel? Who supported you along the way? It doesn’t have to be detail-specific, but you should be able to picture what success means. Once you have that vision, then you can pick apart the components. For instance, if you see yourself climbing a mountain in a foreign land, then it would make sense you would have learned the local language to have a safe climb — and that means you should start studying the culture now to reach the goal later. Looking at the assumptions built into your vision create your to-do list for today.
The big goal becomes even more realistic when it’s broken into smaller goals. It’s classic psychology: Small goals are easier to conquer, and that early success gives you the momentum to charge the big goal. Approachable milestones also give you plateaus on your journey, so if you aren’t able to complete the whole journey, you have solid progress to pass on to others taking up the slack.
Power also lies in celebrating these smaller victories, no matter how minor. You’ve made progress, which is a victory itself. This strategy gets magnified when you’re on or leading a team. Even a tiny expression of gratitude for you and your team will reinforce progress.
The biggest benefit of smaller goals towards larger goals is building your and your team’s tolerance for failure. The bigger the intention, the more likely you’ll have to pivot, change or even abandon the original vision.
Failing early has two massive benefits: First, you and your colleagues become more adapt at not only recovering from a loss, but coming up with a clear recovery plan that may even be better than the original strategy. Second, you have early insight into what works and what doesn’t work while the stakes are relatively low. Would you rather realize a goal isn’t realistic when you’ve invested a lot or a little? By building in small milestones, you’re able to test big ideas while the risk is low — and increase your chances of actually hitting a major win in the long run.